Original scientific paper
GENERAL ACTIVITY AND PROTECTIVE BEHAVIOUR OF THE EUROPEAN GROUND SQUIRREL (SPERMOPHILUS CITELLUS) IN CAPTIVITY
2013, 14 (3) p. 1243-1260
We decided to focus our research on two of the basic forms of ground squirrel's behaviour in the semi-natural conditions of zoological gardens - general activity and protective behavior. Our main goal was to perform a complex analysis of the ground squirrel's behaviour living in captivity and to compare the various categories of behaviour on a set timeline. We performed our research throughout the span of two years (2011 – 2012), during which we observed two separate ground squirrel colonies (A, B). We took our compiled information and subjected these to a thorough statistical analysis and main tools of comparison. Based on a long-term observation and analysis of the results, we were able to gather very detailed information about the two categories of the ground squirrel's behavior as well as the various periods on the timeline, which were worked into the ethogram of the ground squirrels living in captivity. The results from 2011 confirmed that the behavior of the ground squirrel bred in captivity (both observed categories) – in the same way as was observed in the wild – reaches two peaks with raised frequencies in manifestation of given behavior, mostly in the daily time periods, the first from 9am to 11am and the second from 2.30pm to 5pm. We also noted a change in 2012, when there was a reconstruction nearby the aviaries. These reconstructive activities influenced the behavior (significant decrease of activity) of the ground squirrels in the presence of the assigned workers approximately until 3pm, from which time – also in connection with the lessening of the worker's presence – the ground squirrels activity in their aviaries begun to rapidly rise, which held on until 5pm. The peak of protective behavior in 2012 has reached higher levels than the peak in 2011, which we attribute to their vigilance after the previous presence of people. Our results may serve as a basis for improvement of the life conditions of the ground squirrels bred in captivity as well as their possible relocation into the wild.